The Many Ways to Say “I Think” in Chinese

Once Chinese learners reach the intermediate or advanced stage, they will encounter, “synonyms”, or words with similar meanings.  Telling the difference between words with similar meanings is a key part of improving one’s mastery of the language. It is probably not easy for you to understand similar Chinese words such as “想”(xiǎnɡ), “觉得”(juéde), “认为”(rènwéi), “以为”(yǐwéi) by yourself without guidance, especially when your teacher may have told you that they can all be translated into “think” in English. Actually, there are many such words, with slightly different meanings in Chinese, thought they all say “think” in English. In this article, we are going to focus on “think” in Chinese –“想”, “觉得”, “认为”, “以为”–as they are very useful and also used frequently in expressing opinions, ideas, and feelings. Here is a brief summary about the differences and, more importantly, the usage of “think” in Chinese.

A General Chart on “Think” in Chinese

 “Think” in Chinese

觉得 认为 以为
Part of speech Verb        Verb Verb Verb
Explanation To express personal opinion and make a subjective statement. To express personal feelings mostly, or to make a subjective statement. To express a judgment after careful analysis and thought. To express subjective judgment, and this judgment usually is contrary to a fact.
Subjective or Objective More subjective More subjective Lightly objective Subjective
Tone Not quite sure Not quite sure Lightly sure Not quite sure
Formal or not Casual Casual Lightly formal Casual
Doer Usually people Usually people People or a certain group, in an essay, a meeting etc. Usually

people

Object More focus on general things. More focus on general things. Focus on something important or scientific, or general things. More focus on general things.

 

Tip:here,we need to complete another meaning of “想”, used to express personal will or plan, which is shown at the beginning of Chinese learning .

E.g.

(Wǒ xiǎnɡ qù shānɡdiàn mǎi yìxiē shuǐɡuǒ.)

去商店买一些水果。

I want to go to the shop to buy some fruits.

Next, let’s see the usage of these words.

Usage Details of “Think” in Chinese

Usages of “Think”
“Think” in Chinese Classifications Details Examples
 

Structure Common structure:

Pronoun/Name of a person++other elements“.

我想他说的是对的。

(Wǒ xiǎnɡ tā shuōde shì duì de.)

I think what he said is right.

Collocation 1.     Can use duplication “想想”, and quantifier complements “一下儿”(yí xià’r), “一会儿”(yí huì’r).

2.     Can use Demonstrative Pronoun “这样”(zhèyànɡ) or “这么” (zhème) to decorate “想”, making a stress and replacing the content after the Verb.

1.     让我想想。

(Rànɡ wǒ xiǎnɡxianɡ.)

Let me see.

让我想一下儿/一会儿。

(Rànɡ wǒ xiǎnɡ yíxià’r/yí huì’r.)

Let me think for a while.

2.     你怎么能这样想。

(Nǐ zěnme nénɡ zhèyànɡ xiǎnɡ.)

How could you think so?

Negation Use “不” or “没” to negate. But, when using “不”, there is usually the phrase “不这样/这么想”, to negate the present or the future;

when using “没”, there is usually the phrase “没这样/这么想过” or structure “没想过/到+(other elements)”, to negate the past.

1.     ——我想他们不会来了。

(Wǒ xiǎnɡ tāmen bú huì lái le.)

——我不这样/这么想。他们肯定会来的。

(Wǒ bú zhèyànɡ/zhème xiǎnɡ. Tāmen kěndìnɡ huì lái de.)

——I don’t think they will come.

——I don’t think so. They will surely come.

2.     我没想过/到他会来参加我的生日聚会。

(Wǒ méi xiǎnɡ ɡuò tā huí lái cānjiā wǒ de shēnɡrì jùhuì.)

I didn’t think he would come to join my birthday party.

 

觉得 Structure Common structure:

Pronoun/Name of a person+觉得+other elements“.

我觉得他没错。

(Wǒ juéde tā méi cuò.)

I don’t think he is wrong.

Collocation Can use Demonstrative Pronoun “这样” (zhèyànɡ) or “这么”(zhème) to decorate “觉得” , making a stress and replacing the content after the Verb.

To negate, usually use “不” to form “不这样/这么觉得”.

——我觉得明天他可能会迟到。

(Wǒ juéde mínɡtiān tā kěnénɡ huì chídào.)

——我不这样/这么觉得。

(Wǒ bú zhèyànɡ/ zhème juéde.)

——I think he will be late tomorrow.

——I don’t think so.

Negation Can use “不” or “没” to negate.

Differences:

1.     “不” is stronger than “没” in degree. And “没” also means the speaker contains a little uncertainty in tone.

2.     “没” is usually used to negate the past, while “不” is usually used to negate the present and the future.

1.     我不觉得他是正确的。

(Wǒ bù juéde tā shì zhènɡquè de.)

I don’t think he is right.

2.     我没觉得他说的是对的。

(Wǒ méi juéde tā shuōde shì duì de.)

I do not think that what he said was right.

3.     ——你之前不是觉得他很帅吗?

(Nǐ zhīqián bú shì juéde tā hěn shuài mɑ)

——你听谁说的,我没觉得他很帅啊。

(Nǐ tīnɡ shuí shuō de wǒ méi juéde tā hěn shuài ā.)

——Didn’t you think he was handsome before?

——From whom did you hear that? I did not think he was handsome.

认为 Structure 1.     Common structure:

“Pronoun/Name of a person/essay/meeting etc.+认为+other elements”.

2.     Can use structure “被(bèi)(……)认为……”.

1.     我认为这件事应该再讨论讨论。

(Wǒ rènwéi zhè jiàn shì yīnɡɡāi zài tǎolùn tǎolun.)

I think we should have another discussion on it.

2.     听音乐被认为是一个学习汉语的好方法之一。

(Tīnɡ yīnyuè bèi rènwéi shì yíɡè xuéxí hànyǔ de hǎo fānɡfǎ zhī yī.)

Listening to music is recognized as one of the good ways to study Chinese.

3.文章认为保护地球,人人有责。

(Wénzhānɡ rènwéi bǎohù dìqiú, rénrén yǒu zé.)

The essay reads that protecting the earth is the responsibility of everyone.

Collocation 1.     Can use “坚决”(jiān jué), “坚持”(jiān chí) to decorate “认为”.

2.     Can use Demonstrative Pronoun “这样”(zhèyànɡ) or “这么” (zhème)  to decorate “认为”, making a stress and replacing the content after the Verb.

1.     他坚决认为公司不应该采取方案A

(Tā jiānjué rènwéi ɡōnɡsī bù yīnɡɡāi cáiqǔ fānɡ’àn A.)

He insists that our firm should not take Plan A.

2.     我不这样/这么认为。我的观点和他的正好相反。

(Wǒ bú zhèyànɡ/zhème rèn wéi. Wǒ de ɡuāndiǎn hé tāde zhènɡhǎo xiānɡfǎn.)

I don’t think so. And my opinion is just opposite to his opinion.

Negation Use “不” to negate. 1.     ——我认为我们应该遵守经理的命令。

(Wǒ rènwéi wǒmen yīnɡɡāi zūn shǒu jīnɡlǐ de mìnɡlìnɡ.)

——我不这样/这么认为。

(Wǒ búzhèyànɡ/zhème rènwéi.)

——I think we should obey the order of the manager.

——I don’t think so.

以为 Structure 1.     Common structure

Pronoun/Name of a person+以为+other elements“.

2.     Can  use structure “让(rànɡ)……以为……”.

1.     我以为他不想去,其实他一直就想去。

(Wǒ yǐwéi tā bù xiǎnɡ qù, qíshí tā yìzhí jiù xiǎnɡ qù.)

I thought he didn’t want to go, but actually he wanted to go all this time.

2.     他这样做让我以为他想去中国。

(Tā zhèyànɡ zuò rànɡ wǒ yǐwéi tā xiǎnɡ qù Zhōnɡɡuó.)

What he has done makes me think he wants to go to China.

Collocation Can use “还” and “一直” to decorate “以为” to form “还以为”(hái yǐ wéi) and  “一直以为”(yìzhí yǐwéi). 1.     我还以为他不会来参加我的生日聚会了呢。

(Wǒ hái yǐwéi tā bú huì lái cānjiā wǒde shēnɡrì jùhuì le ne.)

I had thought he would not come to my birthday party.

2.     我们一直以为他是中国人,但实际上他是韩国人。

(Wǒmen yìzhí yǐwéi tā shì Zhōnɡɡuó réndàn shíjìshànɡ tā shì Hánɡuó rén.)

We had thought for a long time that he was Chinese, but in fact he was Korean

Negation Can’t use “不” or “没” to negate “以为”.

 

References:
1. 罗陈霞,朱彤, 《经贸汉语高级教程》,上海音乐出版社, 2004年。
2. 彭小川,李守纪,王红,《对外汉语教学语法释疑201例》,商务印书馆出版,2014年。

Cecilia He

Cecilia majored in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. She has vast experience in educating her students on how to listen to and speak Chinese, and is trained to teach HSK courses. She has mastered the method and practice of teaching the structure, historical development, and relationships of languages as an academic subject, and has also done extensive research on Intercultural Communication and Sinology.